Arts Preview: Spring art exhibitions that transport to Laguna, Teotihuacan, Iran and beyond

Newsha Tavakolian's "Mothers of Martyrs" (detail), 2006. The photo is part of the upcoming exhibition "In the Fields of Empty Days: The Intersection of Past and Present in Iranian Art" at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Newsha Tavakolian’s “Mothers of Martyrs” (detail), 2006. The photo is part of the upcoming exhibition “In the Fields of Empty Days: The Intersection of Past and Present in Iranian Art” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
(Newsha Tavakolian / Thomas Erben Gallery)
Art Critic

Southern California’s art museums will be unusually quiet this spring, with few major exhibitions opening. Smaller installations and permanent-collection re-hangs are in the offing, but at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Huntington, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Orange County Museum of Art and San Diego’s Museum of Art and Museum of Contemporary Art, few significant shows will arrive before late summer or fall.

Some of the torpor is no doubt due to interruptions from planned or evolving building and expansion projects. Some is perhaps due to simple exhaustion. The massive “Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA,” which took more than three years to produce, saw scores of Latin American and Latino art shows blossom at Southland museums starting in August and winding up this winter.

Still, a number of promising exhibitions are on the calendar, as enumerated below. Plus, there will also be time to dip into something slightly different: “Civilizations,” a new nine-part PBS series presented in partnership with the BBC, will tell the global story of art from the dawn of human history to the present day.


Kenneth Clark’s fabled 1969 “Civilisation,” inspiration for the current TV project, was limited to European art, with an occasional nod to the United States, and looked almost exclusively at white male artists, architects and writers. Its 13 episodes had the virtue of offering a deep dive into a relatively narrow field; the new show is happily broader, but it’s worryingly shorter — six continents covered in four fewer episodes — with a different host each week. The debut is April 17.

"Soul Mining"
Mimian Hsu’s photograph “La Gran China (The Great China),” 2012, is part of the “Soul Mining” show at the Vincent Price Art Museum. Mimian Hsu

Through July 14

‘Soul Mining’

More than a century ago, in the wake of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, the now-much-discussed idea of a border wall with Mexico was promoted as a method for deterring Chinese immigrants from entering the U.S. This just-opened traveling exhibition from Arizona State University Art Museum surveys art related to Asian migration to the Americas. Vincent Price Art Museum, East Los Angeles College, 1301 Avenida Cesar Chavez, Monterey Park. Closed Sun.-Mon. Free. (323) 265-8841.

‘City and Cosmos: The Arts of Teotihuacan’
Circular relief, sun pyramid, Teotihuacan, Mexico, 300-450. Stone, 49.25 inches by 40.5 inches by 9.9 inches Jesus Valdovinos Al / Archivo Digital de la Colecciones del Museo Nacional de Antropología / INAH-CANON

March 25-July 15

‘City and Cosmos: The Arts of Teotihuacan’

Fifteen hundred years ago, Teotihuacan — “the place where the gods were created” — was the largest city in the ancient Americas. The original builders of its three extraordinary pyramids and other complex structures, located just outside modern Mexico City, are unknown. But the celebrated archaeological site has produced remarkable mural paintings, ceramics, ritual objects and stone sculptures, many not exhibited in the U.S. before now. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 5905 Wilshire Blvd., L.A. Closed Wednesdays. $10-$25; members and children 17 and under, free. (323) 857-6010.

March 27-Sept. 9

‘Beyond the Nile: Egypt and the Classical World’

Cultural cross-pollination among artists in Egypt, Greece and Rome between 2000 B.C. and 300 A.D. is the subject of this wide-ranging international loan show, which looks at the influence of Egyptian art on the artistic expression of cultures emerging across the Mediterranean. The Getty Center, North Sepulveda Boulevard and Getty Center Drive, L.A. Closed Mondays. Free. (310) 440-7300.

April 18-Sept. 3

‘Plato in L.A.: Contemporary Artists’ Visions’

Sculptures, paintings, drawings and large-scale installations by 11 contemporary artists have been chosen for their responses to the formative contribution to philosophy made by Plato, founder of the Academy in ancient Athens. Among them are works by Mike Kelley, Rachel Harrison, Huang Yong Ping and Jeff Koons. The Getty Villa, 17985 Pacific Coast Highway, Pacific Palisades. Closed Tuesdays. Free; advanced tickets required. (310) 440-7300.

"Plato in L.A.: Contemporary Artists’ Visions"
Jeff Koons’ “Play-Doh,” 1994–2014, polychromed aluminum. Jeff Koons

May 6-Sept. 9

‘In the Fields of Empty Days: The Intersection of Past and Present in Iranian Art’

Appropriations of Iranian history to critically describe current social circumstances are surveyed in 125 works of art — photography, painting, sculpture, video, posters, political cartoons, animation and historical illustrated manuscripts. Pre-Islamic kings and the martyrdom of Shiite Imams are among the devices artists have employed. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 5905 Wilshire Blvd., L.A. Closed Wednesdays. $10-$25; members and children 17 and under, free. (323) 857-6010.

"In the Fields of Empty Days: The Intersection of Past and Present in Iranian Art"
Malekeh Nayiny’s “All in Pink,” 2007. Dye coupler print, 47.25 inches by 35.4 inches. Malekeh Nayiny

June 3-Sept. 2

‘Made in L.A. 2018’

The fourth installment of the Hammer’s biennial considers what’s happening now in the studios of Southern California artists. Just five of the 32 artists were born in L.A. while eight hail from other countries, a mix that reinforces the virtue of cosmopolitanism in a period marked by a disturbing xenophobia. UCLA Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood. Closed Mondays. Free. (310) 443-7000.

"Made in L.A. 2018"
“El Camino Wagon,” 2017, by Aaron Fowler, one of the artists in the Hammer’s Made in L.A. biennial. Aaron Fowler

June 3-Sept. 2

‘This Brush for Hire: Norm Laich and Many Other Artists’

Artist Norm Laich is also a skilled fabricator who has worked for numerous other artists, helping them to realize their ambitions over nearly 30 years. This show gathers together signage, wall paintings, canvases and large-scale installations to which Laich contributed, including works by Ed Ruscha, Paul McCarthy, Michael Asher, Barbara Kruger and Mike Kelley. The Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 1717 E. 7th St., L.A. Closed Mondays-Tuesdays. Free. (213) 928-0833 .

June 23-Aug. 25

‘Head Back and High: Senga Nengudi, Performance Objects (1976-2015)’

Nengudi, whose work is also on view in a survey at USC Fisher Museum of Art, was among a major group of avant-garde African-American artists who emerged in Los Angeles and New York in the 1970s. This show juxtaposes performance photographs and video from the period with more recent work in sculpture. Art + Practice, 3401 W. 43rd Place, L.A. Closed Sundays. Free.

"Head Back and High: Senga Nengudi, Performance Objects (1976-2015)"
Senga Nengudi. “Performance Piece,” 1978. Senga Nengudi / Thomas Erben Gallery, New York / Levy Gorvy, New York, London

June 24-Jan. 13

‘Art Colony: The Laguna Beach Art Association, 1918-1935’

The museum celebrates its centennial with an overview of the artists, including Edgar Payne, Anna Hills and William Wendt, who founded the seaside institution and oversaw its expansion. More than 60 paintings will constitute the first large-scale critical study of the group. Laguna Art Museum, 307 Cliff Drive, Laguna Beach. Closed Wednesdays. $5, $7; 12 and under, free. (949) 494-8971.

Twitter: @KnightLAT


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